A great professional headshot goes a long way. From a LinkedIn profile picture to the company website, business professionals need a warm, inviting portrait that conveys their personality to their customers. A cell phone mug shot simply won’t do.
No pressure, right?
Getting a good headshot involves more than simply pointing an expensive camera at someone’s head and pressing the shutter button. It’s a process of building trust with your subject. Here, we’ll explore how to put your subjects at ease, and capture their personalities with rockin’ headshots.
Shooting a professional headshot
Let’s explore some simple things you can do to make a great professional headshot. Each one may not apply to every shoot, but they can help up your photography game.
1. Help your subject chill out
People dread looking stupid and usually fear being placed in the spotlight, so expect your subject to initially have that deer-in-the-headlights expression when you whip out your camera.
Your job is to put the client at ease and to make a great portrait. One way to do this is to let them know that the first part of the shoot is just warm-up time. This lessens some of the pressure that they’re placing on themselves. When you begin snapping photos, they won’t have the all-or-nothing mentality that can cause even the most confident CEOs to freeze up. And when the warm-up time is over, you can conveniently forget to tell them when the real shooting starts.
You can even tell the occasional bad joke, which helps put them at ease because you’re the poor soul looking silly first. They key is to give them permission to relax.
2. Get to know them
Never forget that your subject is a living, breathing person with passions, desires, and fears. If you treat them like a lifeless mannequin that simply needs to be posed, you won’t get very far in building rapport or getting great shots. Instead, make it a point to ask them questions. Investing in getting to know them on a more personal level will pay off in more relaxed, natural photos down the line. Plus, people love talking about themselves. This should extend through the entire session, but it should definitely start at the very beginning.
3. Let inner passion shine through your shot
Now that your subject is starting to relax, it’s time to spark their inner passion so that you can portray it in the professional headshot. With portraits, much of the personality and spark is in their eyes. One way to do this is to simply ask a business owner to talk about their business. Other times, it’s getting them to talk about a hobby outside of work that will catch their fancy.
Be sure to ask the occasional question to steer the conversation forward, and before you know it, they will have relaxed quite a bit. Once they’re smiling and engaged, their eyes will light up. It’s quite easy to take photos while your subject is happily chatting away. You can still occasionally give them the gentle direction to lower their chin or adjust their position, and use their natural pauses to snap the photos.
4. Change up your angle
While it can be tempting to remain at the same angle as your subject (or even slightly below) the entire shoot, varying your position can make for some interesting photos. One easy way to do this is to move slightly higher than their face. It can be a quite flattering point of view.
Don’t be afraid to hop up on a sturdy stool to get slightly above your client. Wonderful things happen at a slightly higher vantage point: real or imagined double chins are magically reduced, and faces are lightly sculpted. You can even use a shallow depth of field (or the portrait scene mode) to lightly blur their shoulders, which puts more focus on their eyes.
Let’s take a look at the photos below. The one on the left was taken slightly below the subject. The one on the right was taken slightly above the subject, and is much more flattering.
However, a quick word of warning: don’t overdo it. If your angle is too extreme, your subject may develop that bewildered expression that shows they are both uncomfortable and annoyed with your creative genius. They might also form an uncomfortable kink in their neck, so find a spot that feels natural for them.
Putting it all together for the ultimate headshot
By the end of the shoot, you should have a handful of photos that convey your subject’s warmth and personality. Most likely, one of these will be used on their website, social media accounts, business cards, and maybe even a billboard. It’s important that they appear both approachable and trustworthy. Additionally, if you’re selling your photography services, providing a smooth experience is crucial for getting repeat business and referrals.
Remember that capturing a warm, personable professional headshot should be a fun, exploratory process.